The Journey of a NU School Psychology Student

by Haley Otto on November 30, 2022
The Journey of a NU School Psychology Student

My name is Haley Otto, I am a second-year graduate student in the school psychology specialist-level program at Niagara University. I completed my Bachelor of Science in Psychology with minors in Child Development & Education at Florida State University. Immediately following graduation, I began graduate school and have loved attending NU since. I was awarded the Dean’s Scholar award in the College of Education which is awarded to the applicant with the highest academic credentials. The past two years has been the hardest yet most rewarding thus far in my educational career.

As I am currently in my second year of the school psychology graduate program at Niagara University, I can reflect on my past experiences in the program and realize how much knowledge I have accumulated over the past 14 months. Prior to beginning coursework at NU, I had minimal applicable knowledge about the profession of school psychology. All I knew as a recent graduate from Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology is that I wanted to work with children and apply the science of psychology into my future career. School psychology combines the best of both worlds by allowing practitioners to work with students in the K-12 setting through the application of psychological science. The main components of this
career relate to prevention, intervention, assessment, progress monitoring, counseling, and consultation. The functions of the profession that I have learned through this program are rewarding and highly valuable because they support students learning. Prior to acquiring more knowledge about these functions, they seemed like a foreign language and quite intimidating, but after learning from amazing professors they are topics that I can grasp and fully understand.

The function of a school psychologist is to support student’s ability to learn and teacher’s ability to teach through applying expert knowledge in mental health, learning, and behavior. This program at NU is accredited through the National Association of School Psychologists as an approved specialist-level track that is completed in 3 years. The first two years consist of coursework on and off campus following a third-year internship that can be completed in NYS or out of state. The first year of the school psychology program at Niagara was fast-paced and student-oriented. The program director- Dr. Kilanowski - is an amazing practitioner and provides a wealth of knowledge about the field because her mission is to ensure every student succeeds. Coursework in the first year relates to the basics of school psychology pertaining to assessment, intervention, counseling, progress monitoring, and consultation. I learned how to administer reliable and valid cognitive, achievement, and behavior assessments that are used daily in the field. Administering, hand-scoring, and interpreting assessment results into psychoeducational reports is another component of the program that is heavily focused on during the Spring semester of the first year. As assessment is a large portion of this career, the program also includes counseling coursework during both first and second years that is valuable for students to gain a well-rounded graduate experience. Overall, the first year of coursework sets a foundation for the rest of the program on the basis that practitioners should afford students an equitable education while considering their total range of abilities.

After completion of 30 credit hours within the first year of the program, the second year begins which is where I currently am. NU ensures that students gain real-world applicable experience during this program through second-year practicum placements. I am currently in my first practicum placement located in a rural district in Western New York across three elementary schools. Students are supervised by a practicing school psychologist and perform the functions of the profession. Thus far I have administered assessments, written reports, conducted a functional behavior analysis, consulted with a multitude of school professionals, and learned about the school ecosystem. Practicum allows students to immerse themselves in the field and learn from first-hand experience how to handle difficult situations. I am eager to begin my second practicum placement at a Buffalo public high school which will afford me a diverse experience that is heterogeneous from my current placement. Overall, the second year of the school psychology program is rigorous, fast-paced, and a learning curve. Learning how to balance coursework, practicum, online classes, projects, reports, internship applications, and many other components is taxing but will be rewarding once the third-year internship begins.

During the third year a 1200-hour internship is completed for which students engage in virtual supervision and complete portfolio coursework for certification. Niagara University’s program director provides amazing guidance into where students should apply and refrain from applying to internship based on NASP standards and personal experience. Dr. Kilanowski encourages students to leave New York and experience a diverse internship in a new state that will provide an abundance of learning opportunities. Depending on where students want to complete their internship, timelines for applications and interviews are variable. I am applying out of state for my third-year internship where applications are due late November and interviews begin in early December. Students who are planning on interning within New York will complete the application and interview process in February. This portion of the program allows autonomy since students select the school, district, and area they want to complete the internship. During this time energy is dedicated towards creating CV’s, cover letters, redacted psychoeducational reports, and letters of recommendation as part of the materials that will be submitted. This is where I am currently in the program. Completing coursework, attending practicum, administering assessments, writing reports, and creating an amazing application packet for all the districts I am applying to. It is a challenging task, but I am up for the challenge in the hopes to secure an amazing internship in a well-rounded, diverse school district.

The school psychology program at Niagara University has provided me an amazing educational experience thus far. I consider my professors as mentors, I have found my best friends amongst my peers, and I have grown as an individual into a more confident version of myself. For prospective school psychology students, make the same decision I did three years ago and apply to Niagara University. This nationally accredited program will provide limitless opportunities to build your skills and teach you how to become an amazing practitioner. I am so grateful for this program, my professors, my peers, and this school.

For more information on the School Psychology program, please contact us or call 716.286.8336